On September 27, the head of Azerbaijani Railways Company, Javid Gurbanov, along with his Georgian and Turkish counterparts, Mamuka Bakhtadze and Ahmad Arslan, respectively, attended the first test run by a passenger train along a section of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway, from the Georgian capital to Akhalkalaki (in the country’s southwest). After the test train reached the final destination, Gurbanov declared that the BTK railroad is likely ready to begin regular operation (AzVision, September 27). Hence, the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, during a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, in Tbilisi, stated that the official opening ceremony of the BTK will be held on October 30 of this year (Apsny.ge, October 10).
The 826-kilometer-long Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway connects Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (and by extension forms an important link in the trans-continental transport corridor connecting Central Asia and China to Europe). The BTK railroad is being constructed on the basis of a 2007 Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. In its initial stage, the railway will carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. However, by 2023, its peak capacity will grow to 17 million tons of cargo annually (The Asian, October 18, 2016). Beginning in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, trains traveling along the BTK will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in northeastern Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Will the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway Become Uzbekistan’s New Connection to Europe?→
Baku hosted the first joint gathering of the heads of the railway administrations of Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, on June 19. The meeting was dedicated to the newly-launched “South-West Transport Corridor,” which links into the broader Trans-Caspian International Route project launched in 2016. The event concluded with the signing of a new joint protocol that envisages expanding cooperation opportunities along the so-called “South-West” route (Iran–Azerbaijan–Georgia–by ferry across the Black Sea–Ukraine–Poland) in order to optimize cargo transportation and increase transit capacity. Reportedly, the next joint meeting of the working group will be held in Odesa in September 2017 (Trend, June 19).
In May 2017, China hosted an international summit in Beijing gathering 28 heads of state from four continents and representatives of various international organizations. The summit was devoted to the Belt and Road Initiative, referring to overland and maritime routes across the Eurasian landmass. One of the most significant moments of the summit was the meeting between China’s and Pakistan’s leaders and the signing of a new agreement (MoU), adding to the US$ 46 billion already pledged for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of rail, road and energy infrastructure. During the event, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, requesting their investment in CPEC.
BACKGROUND: CPEC is the flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative and has been seen as a “game changer” in the regional geopolitical discourse since it was formally unveiled in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan and has a budget of over US$ 46 billion. As part of this initiative, an opening ceremony was held on May 6, 2016 in the city of Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, marking the beginning of construction of a section of highway between Sukkur and the city of Multan, which will be part of a network of highways connecting the cities of Peshawar and Karachi. Oxumağa davam et China – Pakistan Economic Corridor: An Opportunity for Central Asia?→
Abstract. This paper examines the European Union’s geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus, with a specific focus on Azerbaijan. The EU has maintained a relationship with the region for over two decades, but often the EU’s approach towards the South Caucasus have been deeply affected by local and regional developments. Nevertheless, EU – Azerbaijan bilateral relations may offer an alternative. Azerbaijan plays a key role in European energy security, while the EU is seeking to create a “European space” in the South Caucasus. These two interrelated developments are mutually reinforcing. This paper examines how this relationship shapes and/or is influenced by the EU’s geopolitical strategic vision in the region.
The Georgian coastal city of Batumi hosted, on May 23, a trilateral meeting of the defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia (Azertac, May 23). This trilateral cooperation format was inaugurated in 2012, during a ministerial meeting in Trabzon, Turkey. As expected, a new military memorandum was signed during the Batumi meeting: the three sides pledged to boost military ties as well as increase cooperation in the fields of military education and military medicine, counterterrorism (including the protection of pipelines and railways), and joint large-scale military exercises (APA, May 23). “Our cooperation in the field of defense contributes to strengthening security, peace and economic development,” Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov told reporters in Batumi (Azertac, May 23). Oxumağa davam et Azerbaijan-Turkey-Georgia: A Geopolitical Axis or an Accidental Alliance?→
The regional economic integration within the globalized world has been recognized as an important driver for economic growth and job creation. Hence, free trade is one of the essential points for future regional economic development that would lead to a more productive and competitive economic structure. In this respect, the Eurasian Economic Union, which came into force in 2015, aims to establish a single regional market with the elimination of all customs barriers between its Member States. Even though a number of Post-Soviet countries have already become members of the EEU, Azerbaijan has managed to maintain its neutral position in this regard. Oxumağa davam et Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Eurasian Economic Union: A Risky Game or an Opportunity?→
In the end of April 2017, Georgia and Iran held several joint events, and round table meetings aimed at deepening of bilateral strategic cooperation between two regional countries. Even though, there are certain obstacles for growing cooperation, Iranian and Georgian officials have conducted two vis-a-vis meetings in the end of April.
Firstly, Iranian delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Tbilisi on April 18. Simultaneously, on the same day, Tbilisi host the Georgian – Iranian Business Forum, where about 100 companies from both countries were represented. “Iran is a country with one of the most serious economic potentials” in the region, said Minister of Economy Giorgi Gakharia, during the opening ceremony.